When you have children, you want the best for them. You and your spouse may no longer get along or want to be together, but that doesn’t mean that you want to hurt their relationship with your kids.
Unfortunately, not all parents feel the same way. Some will use bribery and manipulation to turn their children against the other parent. This is called parental alienation, and it may lead to parental alienation syndrome. When dealing with custody disputes, this is more common, so it’s something to watch out for.
What are the three red flags of parental alienation?
There are three pretty significant signs of parental alienation to watch out for. These may include:
- Limiting phone calls or communication when the child is with the alienating parent
- Creating a narrative that the target parent is inadequate, mean or dangerous to the children
- Exaggerating complaints by the child to make them seem legitimate, even when they are not
Here are a few examples of how these actions may affect your children. With the first, limiting phone calls makes the other parent off-limits during the stay. This gives the custodial parent at the time control over what the child sees and hears. There is no ability for the other parent to step in and make corrections, so statements may stick harder.
During that time apart, the alienating parent may create a narrative that targets the other parent by making them seem dangerous, inadequate or even mean when they are not. For example, if the parent was involved in a near-miss with their child due to a dangerous driver, the alienating parent may suggest that the other parent actually wanted to hurt the child that was with them.
Finally, alienating parents often exaggerate complaints made by their children. They may agree with the child and even reinforce the idea that their complaint is totally legitimate, even if it’s not. For example, the child might say they’re hungry because they refused to eat dinner, and the alienating parent may turn that into the other parent “starving” them.
These actions may harm or ruin a relationship between the child and target parent, but recognizing these red flags gives you time to take action. It’s a good idea to talk to a board certified family law attorney before making any decisions on how to address this situation, so you have all the options laid out in front of you.